Injuries amongst crew members and merchant mariners were so prevalent that Congress established the Jones Act — or more accurately, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Although originally intended to protect merchant marines, the Jones Act now typically covers a broad spectrum of people who are employed or who assist on ships and other types of vessels on the high seas, lakes, rivers or channels.
Types of professionals who are likely to be covered under the Jones Act include:
- Merchant Marines
- Boat Officers
- Barge Workers
- Tugboat Workers
- Offshore Workers
The Jones Act requires owners of vessels to provide well-maintained and safe vessels for their employees. Every part of the vessel must be maintained in a seaworthy manner — meaning that the boat or sea vessel is free from defects and is in proper working order.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies the majority of these workers under the water transportation occupation. This is considered to be one of the more dangerous jobs, along with commercial fishing, which also involves water travel. The hazards of weather while out on the water add danger to what are often physically demanding jobs. In 2011, 2 out of every 100 workers claimed an injury for those who worked in the water transportation industry. Since maritime workers can be classified under several types of jobs, it is difficult to get a true number of injuries and fatalities related to those who work aboard or with water vessels.
Unique aspect of injury law
In order to recover injury-related damages from the owner or operator of a vessel, a crew member must establish that his or her injury was — at least in part — due to the maritime employer’s fault. In other words, the employee must demonstrate that the defect on the sea vessel caused or contributed to the injury.
Unlike other tradesmen injured in the course of their employment and covered under workers compensation, the sole remedy for an injured seaman is to pursue a claim or lawsuit against their employer under the Jones Act.
Legal benefits afforded under the Jones Act for injured sea men
Once liability has been established against an employer, an injured seaman is entitled to temporary benefits known as “maintenance” and “cure.” Maintenance is a stipend paid to workers who are taken off work by a physician due to their injury. Cure is a payment for medical expenses such as doctors, hospitals and prescriptions.
Further distinguishing Jones Act benefits from those typically afforded under workers compensation, an injured seaman may be entitled to significant damages for lost wages, disability, fringe benefits and pain and suffering. It is important that workers have someone on their side that understands the differences the Jones Act and what legal rights they have to obtaining financial damages for their injury.
Attorneys protecting marine workers in Illinois
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help an injured seaman determine what rights he or she may have and further advise if a potential claim may be pursued against a sub-contractor or product manufacturer who contributed to the injury. If you were injured on a vessel or dock in Illinois, get the attention that a regional law firm provides as opposed to being just a number at a larger office.
Our maritime accident attorneys pride themselves on their hands-on approach where clients know our attorneys by their first name and cell phone numbers. As with all our personal injury cases, the initial consultation is free and we would be honored with the opportunity to discuss your potential Jones Act case.